A contingent of underrepresented voices in East Hampton Town—representing the Hispanic community and young adults—gathered on Monday night at D’Canela’s Restaurant in Amagansett to kick off the first of many meetings of a group called New Leaders of East Hampton.
The group is made up of young Latino adults, some who are also members of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee, which also turned out in support on Monday night at D’Canela Restraurant in Amagansett. A handful of twenty-somethings showed up, hoping to encourage the New Leaders and be a part of the discussion on how young adults and Hispanics can have a positive impact on East Hampton Town.
“I want to see this group fill the gap we have in this town,” said East Hampton Democratic Committee member Franaldo Hanna, whose family hails from the Bahamas. “I don’t see many people my age involved in politics or in the town. except when it is time to complain. I don’t see Spanish people and I don’t see black people. I feel that there are a lot of people who are part of the town who feel, for some reason, they’re not part of the town. I want to go out there and welcome them into the circle and make them feel like the community we all once grew up in.”
The East Hampton Town Democratic Committee is making a big push to recruit younger people and those from different ethnicities in order to sustain the party and keep it relevant, according to the party’s chairwoman, Jeanne Frankl.
“As chairman, I want the Democratic Party to succeed,” she said this week. “This is much bigger than our party—it’s about our town. East Hampton has been a model of American democracy, and it would be a dreadful shame if we weren’t able to sustain this in future generations.”
At the meeting, resident Alberto Saavedra, whose daughter Isabel is a member of the local Democratic Party and of the New Leaders, said in Spanish through a friend that he looks forward to the work of the New Leaders. “I might like to change the way we are perceived by many other people,” he said. “We would like to help make it a better place to live.”
Ms. Saavedra, who has just graduated from law school at the University of Massachusetts, echoed her father’s sentiments about creating a community that is inclusive.
“As a Colombian-American, I feel we’re under-represented,” she said. “I want the Latino community and other minorities to have a place where they feel comfortable and can talk about their issues. I want to go somewhere where I feel my voice counts.”
Ms. Saavedra said it is important for the New Leaders and the Hispanic community to discuss affordable housing, immigration, police brutality and discrimination, recycling and the environment, as well as activities for children.
Likewise, Walker Bragman, a 26-year-old law school hopeful, and Mr. Hanna are hoping they, too, can get the same discussions going among their peers and encourage more of them to join the Democratic Committee.
While the Hispanic community is growing in East Hampton, young professionals are dwindling because of the high price of housing, Mr. Bragman said, adding that, coupled with the lack of activities and opportunities, it has driven him to get involved.
“I grew up in East Hampton, and as I got older more and more of my friends and people I know moved away because they couldn’t afford to live in East Hampton anymore,” he said. “And every year when I came back from school, I wouldn’t recognize Newtown Lane. We have a chameleon Main Street in a way. It bothers me, because when I was growing up, it felt like it had so much promise, and it’s kind of lost that a little bit.”
Mr. Bragman and Mr. Hanna said they support adding more affordable housing and more activities for youth—big issues for young year-round residents. They said the changing demographic has made East Hampton into a place for tourists, leaving the locals out.
“We need to keep the East Hampton feel … no one cares about locals at all,” Mr. Hanna said. “We all live in this town, and it can’t accommodate one kind of person.”